Join Jim and Greg as they applaud a new ad urging voters to keep the GOP in control of the Senate. They also hammer a New York Times writer for complaining that conservative outlets are giving too much attention to the multiple nights of vandalism, looting, and violence in Philadelphia. And they unload on California Gov. Gavin Newsom for his utterly insane COVID rules for Thanksgiving or any other gathering.
Join Jim and Greg as they welcome steadily improving unemployment numbers as they prepare for Friday’s final jobs report before Election Day. They also unload on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for flat out lying about forcing nursing homes to take COVID-positive patients into their facilities, a policy that resulted in several thousand deaths. And they discuss news that the Commission on Presidential Debates is considering rules changes, including cutting off microphones if candidates don’t follow the rules.
With the reversal of the Obama-era net neutrality policy set to take effect June 1, Democrats and some Republicans are scrambling to block the move legislatively, but an FCC commissioner says none of the nightmare scenarios are going to play out, many people completely miss what’s really changing, and the biggest changes likely to come from the policy change will be better, faster, and cheaper broadband.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 52-47 through the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s December action on net neutrality. Supporters of the resolution, including three Republicans, fear that ending net neutrality will result in slower or less reliable internet service and more predatory behavior by internet service providers, or ISP’s, towards consumers, by rolling back consumer protections.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr says the internet will simply revert to the pre-2015 policy, which was not a time of anarchy.
“We aren’t opening up the world to some Mad Max version of the internet, where ISP’s now have free reign to dictate their online experience. What we’re doing is going back to the same legal framework that was in place in 2015 and for the 20 years before that where consumers are fully protected and wee saw massive investment in our broadband infrastructure,” said Carr.
Come June 1, he says no one will be able to tell anything has changed when they log onto the web.
“In terms of your day-to-day online experience, what you see the day these rules are removed is going to be identical to what you see the day before they’re removed,” said Carr.
But there will likely be a major impact that consumers will enjoy down the road.
“What we’ve seen principally (under net neutrality) is a pretty sharp decline in investment in the broadband space,” he said. “The one difference we’re hoping they’re going to see that some of the decline in investment, hopefully we will see a reversal in that.”
So what’s behind the protests?
“I think a lot of what we’re seeing, by advocacy groups or otherwise, is intentional misrepresentations about what this issue is about purely – and I think this has been stated publicly by others – for partisan electoral politics,” said Carr.
Carr’s greatest frustration is that many of the vociferous opponents to the new FCC policy don’t seem to realize what is changing and what is not. He says the biggest change is how the internet is classified in federal law.
“The debate is really about this Title II framework, not really about the rules themselves, and the negative impact we’ve seen in terms of investment is because of the broad Title II framework,” said Carr.
When the Obama-era FCC instituted net neutrality in 2015, it allowed the federal government to regulate the internet based on the Communications Act of 1934. It’s that additional regulation that Carr and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai contend is creating disincentives for internet service providers to invest in upgrading and improving their products.
But what about the consumer protection policies? Carr says that is easy to remedy.
“If you get down to the nitty gritty, it’s about the rules: no blocking, no throttling, no broken promises in terms of what you’re getting. There’s a tremendous amount of common ground. I’d be perfectly fine if Congress were to step in and adopt those types of specific rules,” said Carr.
He says efforts are underway to provide consumer protections through legislation rather than regulation, but only one party seems to have much interest.
“There are Republicans in Congress who have already introduced a standalone net neutrality bill and they’re not getting any traction in terms of a bipartisan group that will stand behind these bills.
“Unfortunately, there’s been so much of this focus on trying to go back to this Title II framework when I think it’s a pretty short putt…to try to enshrine the actual rules that consumers care about into law,” said Carr.
Carr firmly believes unleashing the incentives for ISP’s to invest in emerging technology will mean a much better experience for internet users much sooner than they would have gotten it under Title II regulation.
‘We’re at an interesting time from a technology perspective. We’ve got this new generation of low-earth orbit satellites – these thousand satellite constellations that people are investing in now and potentially going to launch in a couple of years. That could change the game for satellite broadband.
“We’ve got these new fixed wireless broadband applications which could give you – over the air – gigabit speeds. We could see greater competition with cable. And we’ve got 5G, this next generation of wireless broadband that going to, again, by gigabit-style speeds.
“In the not-too-distant future, these technologies and the regulatory work we’re doing at the commission right now to cut red tape and enable them. It’s going to to serve consumers and so I’m really optimistic about where we’re going in this space,” said Carr.
As Senate Republican leaders scramble to find the votes to pass a health care bill, their fidelity to a warped understanding of the filibuster rules is deeply impacting the content of the legislation and the odds of passing anything in a deeply divided chamber.
The filibuster is a powerful tool by which the minority in the Senate can delay or kill legislation simply by preventing the 60 votes necessary to open or close debate on a bill.
However, a top official at the conservative Hillsdale College believes that embracing the original understanding and implementation of the procedure would provide for much more robust debate and a stronger legislative branch.
Matthew Spalding is the dean of educational programs at Hillsdale and also runs the school’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center in Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington. He says the filibuster is diluting the purpose of Congress.
“The underlying problem here is that Congress doesn’t really legislate in the way it was supposed to. It gave up on that, in many ways, decades ago, as it delegated its powers away,” said Spalding, who says the filibuster was never intended to give the minority that much power.
“The filibuster was not intended to stop legislation. It was intended to delay it. It was intended to slow walk it. It was intended to allow the minority to say whatever they wanted to say in objection in a public forum, in a deliberate legislative way,” said Spalding.
Instead of the traditional filibuster, which required exhausting speeches that lasted hours on the Senate floor, Spalding says the tool has become the lazy way to stop what members don’t like.
“A filibuster (now) becomes a silent veto. They no longer have to debate and keep the floor open. It doesn’t force deliberation the way the filibuster is supposed to. It’s essentially this silent killing mechanism that stops legislation in its tracks,” said Spalding.
As a result, he says the American people glaze over while the Senate plays parliamentary games instead of publicly debating the best course for the nation.
“I think Congress too often hides behind processes, whether it’s the filibuster or reconciliation or omnibus legislation rather than doing the hard work of legislating. That’s the Madisonian answer here, and in the long run, that’s the best thing to solve our problems,” said Spalding.
He says that problem is front and center right now as GOP efforts to address Obamacare are complicated by the inability to get to 60 votes to do anything. As a result, Republicans are trying to shoehorn changes through the Senate by way of the budget tactic known as reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority of votes to begin or end debate but also restricts what can be considered in such circumstances.
“The Senate is forced to try to go around the filibusters so they use things like reconciliation, an obscure budget process rather than regular legislation to get policy matters done,” said Spalding, who also says the GOP should have been crafting and debating the bill in public rather than writing it behind closed doors like the Democrats did with Obamacare in 2009 and 2010.
Spalding says two simple changes in approach to the filibuster would maker a world of difference. First, he wants the Senate to return to the policy where all other business is halted until a filibuster is resolved. He also encourages Senate leaders to embrace the “two-speech” rule, which would allow each member two opportunities to speak as long as they want in opposition to a bill.
However, once all the opportunities for speeches are done, the bill would proceed to a simple up-or-down vote.
Spalding says this would be very simple to accomplish.
“One of the reasons I point to these two reforms is that neither one of them requires a rules change. All they actually require is for the majority leader to agree to do this. This is merely a procedural move,” said Spalding, noting that those policies used to be in place before getting changed by leaders back in 1970’s when Democrats ran the chamber.
Such moves would still allow for filibusters, but would require real filibusters where lawmakers are forced to stand for hours on end to demonstrate how fiercely they oppose a bill.
“So I’m in favor of legislating but also keeping the filibuster so you can object. But if you’re going to object, you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to debate and you’ve got to really filibuster,” said Spalding.
“You force the opposition to a piece of legislation to each get up there, and they can speak twice at whatever length they want, but it does come to an end at some point. The political point is made. Everything stops. The Senate shuts down and you get a filibuster. You have the effect but it does not stop the legislative branch from fulfilling its constitutional duties,” said Spalding.
The instant concern for those in the minority now or in the future is that Spalding’s approach all but guarantees the majority gets its way and that the minority’s ability to scuttle bad legislation is limited.
He acknowledges that’s true but says there is a remedy for that too.
“We shouldn’t hide behind it to stop bad things. We should argue to stop bad things and have more politics better elections and get better people in there,” said Spalding.
Left to the status quo, Spalding says the legislative branch of the U.S. government will only get weaker and weaker.
“Congress is the weakest branch. It doesn’t legislate. It doesn’t budget. Its muscles are so atrophied (that) we should think about the underlying reforms needed to revive it as an institution, which is good for constitutional government,” said Spalding.